Jerry Wayne Cox, a Pentecostal pastor used by former 22nd Judicial District Attorney Walter Reed as a reference to shill for lucrative personal-injury cases, has been charged in federal court with a single count of structuring financial transactions in an effort to evade federal reporting requirements.
Cox, 72, is the longtime pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church in Franklinton.
Reed, who is under indictment for a spate of criminal charges that include filing false statements on tax returns, once called Cox “one of my best friends in life” in an interview with a Pentecostal magazine that touted Reed’s personal-injury civil work on behalf of members of the denomination.
Cox was charged in a bill of information rather than a grand jury indictment, generally a signal that he is cooperating with authorities and plans to plead guilty. Contacted by a reporter Thursday, Cox declined to comment and hung up.
His lawyer, Eddie Castaing, also declined comment.
According to the bill of information, Cox deposited a check for $70,000 into a bank account in September 2011 and then withdrew most of it over the next three weeks in increments between $7,650 and $9,500 in order to evade detection. Financial institutions must report any transactions involving sums of more than $10,000 to the IRS.
The law that criminalizes such “structuring,” sometimes also called “smurfing,” is aimed at making it harder for those engaged in criminal enterprises — such as bookmakers and money launderers — to avoid the government’s notice.
According to the bill of information, Cox’s withdrawals were part of a pattern of illegal activity that involved more than $100,000 over a 12-month period.
It’s unclear at this point whether the Cox case is directly linked to the Reed case.
Reed’s lawyer, Rick Simmons, said he was aware that Cox was being investigated, but he said he didn’t know anything specific about the case. He said he assumes that the government’s interest in Cox may be a result of his association with Reed.
“They’re going to investigate everyone around Walter,” he said.
He added that he knows of no allegation that links Cox’s case to Reed’s at this point.
“I’m not aware of any involvement with Walter Reed and those (bank) accounts” mentioned in the bill of information, he said.
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Ginsberg, the lead prosecutor in the Reed case, is also the lead attorney on the Cox case.
The pastor’s name has been linked to that of Reed in several instances. The magazine article that mentioned the men’s friendship said Reed had won a $2.4 million settlement for the survivors of two women killed in a crash with an 18-wheeler.
Reed recused his office from prosecuting the truck driver so he could take up the civil lawsuit — a decision some critics say violated his oath to serve the people of the 22nd Judicial District.
The then-DA touted his involvement in that case in a letter to Pentecostal preachers sent out in August 2012.
“Reed joked that sometimes it seemed like Faith Tabernacle was a full-time job. Brother Cox soon had him representing the church and injured people from the church,” the article said.
The next year, 2013, Reed wrote a $25,000 check from his campaign fund to Faith Tabernacle for its building fund, records show. Reed’s alleged misuse of campaign money figures prominently in his indictment, though there is no mention in it of his spending on Cox’s church.
Cox also told The New Orleans Advocate last year that he had sent Reed a potential civil case involving the drowning of two young children in an unfenced swimming pool. He said he never received any money for a referral.
Reed and Cox are both named as defendants in a federal lawsuit brought by a former parishioner of Faith Tabernacle, Roger Dale Magee.
Magee claims he was targeted for reprisals by Cox and Reed because he had gone to the FBI with information about them. He was arrested by Washington Parish deputies and shot with a stun gun while visiting family in 2014. His family was not allowed to bail him out of jail because of what they described as a “DA hold,” according to his lawsuit, and he spent 120 days in jail.
Reed has denied any involvement in Magee’s case.
If convicted on the financial transaction charge, a felony, Cox would face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He also could be ordered to forfeit any property and money involved in the offenses.
“The government specifically provided notice of its intent to seek a personal money judgment against the defendant in the amount of the fraudulently obtained proceeds,” the document says.
Editor’s note: This story was changed Aug. 7 to correct the tax charge faced by Walter Reed.
Staff writer Gordon Russell contributed to this report. Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.